AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Ending Australia’s jinx at the Masters was perhaps the least of Adam Scott’s achievements at Augusta National. More importantly, he fulfilled a destiny many people thought would never come.
A child prodigy who had been earmarked for greatness, Scott had lived for years with the tag of an underachiever who did not have what it takes to win a major.
On Sunday, he proved all his doubters wrong by coming from behind and then winning a nerve-jangling playoff with Argentine Angel Cabrera at Augusta National to win the green jacket.
As the first Australian to win the Masters, he became an instant national sporting hero, while vindicating the faith he and his father had that he could one day make it to the top.
“What an incredible day. Everything fell my way in the end, I guess you just never know,” Scott said.
”I just kept plugging away.
“I‘m just so proud of myself and everyone around me who has helped me.”
Scott was born to be a golfer. His father was a professional player who coached him until he was 19. Scott progressed quickly through the ranks and turned professional when he was still a teenager.
He won his first title in South Africa in 2001 when he joined the European Tour. He won two more European titles the following season then joined the PGA Tour where he had more success.
He won his first PGA Tour event in 2003 then in 2004 he won The Players Championship, deemed golf’s unofficial fifth major. It only seemed a matter of time before he won a real major but the wait proved longer than anyone expected.
By 2009, his career was at a crossroads. For the first time since he joined the PGA Tour, he did not win in the United States that year and his enjoyment of the game was waning.
Greg Norman, who had been his idol and later became his friend and mentor, threw him a lifeline by selecting him for the 2009 Presidents Cup and putting him in against the best players in the world.
“My game was in a bit of a rut to be fair, and I wasn’t enjoying it so much but Greg as the captain had a lot of faith in me and belief that I could win a point for his team, and he gave me a pick, and I didn’t want to disappoint him,” Scott said.
”I used that as a real motivator and also a way to make myself believe that I‘m a great player again.
“I took the ball from there and ran with it. It was a big boost for me, and then shortly after that, I was playing well again.”
Scott started winning again then hired Steve Williams as his caddie after the New Zealander split from Tiger Woods. Then in 2011, he almost won his first major, finishing tied for second at the Masters after making a late charge on the Sunday.
In 2012, it looked as though Scott’s moment had finally arrived when he led the British Open by four shots with just four holes to play.
But the golfing gods can be fickle. Scott bogeyed the last four holes to lose the title by a shot to Ernie Els and was branded a choker, sport’s cruelest tag.
He won a lot of admirers for the gracious way he handled his defeat and vowed not to let it scar him and instead learned from the experience.
“I was more motivated,” the 32-year-old Queenslander said. “I knew I could do it.”
For a while on Sunday, things did not seem to be going his way. He started one shot behind the leading pair but bogeyed the first hole. After nine holes, he had slipped three shots behind.
Then his luck suddenly changed for the better on the par-five 13th hole, the final leg of Amen Corner. His approach to the green spun back sharply and his ball started to head down the slope to Rae’s Creek.
Then he got a break. The ball suddenly stopped and he went on to birdie the hole and the momentum started to swing.
He birdied the 15th as well, then holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th which he thought would be enough to win in regulation.
“I was pumped. It was a huge moment,” Scott said.
“I felt I had to seize it right there. This is the chance, put all the pressure on the guy back down the fairway. I felt like this was my chance and I took it.”
But the celebrations proved premature. Cabrera, playing in the last group, also birdied the last and the two were forced into a playoff, which Scott won on the second extra hole with another long birdie putt.
The galleries roared and Scott threw his hands up in the air, then spotted his father in the crowd and hugged him.
“He said: ‘it doesn’t get any better than this’, which is true,” Scott said.
”He’s an amazing man ... obviously he’s always there for me, the good times and the bad.
“He was at the (British) Open last year and he was as positive as anyone. I‘m sure he was gutted inside, but nice that I was able to kind of reward him with this one today.”
Editing by Frank Pingue